Oh no…CVs revisited

Jim RealiAdvice, Cover Letters, CVs, Jim Reali, Postgraduate


I bet that’s how you may have felt when you saw that this was a blog about CVs. Lots of people do. After all, how hard can it be? You put down everything that’s great about you and an employer offers you a job. To coin a current advertising slogan, “Simples”. If you’ve been an undergraduate student at Aston, you probably had to submit at least one CV as part of an assessed assignment. If you’re a postgraduate student, you’ve probably had the opportunity to attend at least one workshop about them. This must make you an expert, surely…?

I’m not going to enter a huge discussion here about every single thing you need to do to make your CV acceptable, This is more about themes… If you want to know about specific resources, skip to the end of the document.

CVs aren’t an exact science

If you’ve ever had CV feedback from more than one person, you may have been left scratching your head: people often seem to have different opinions about how a CV should look and what it should include. However, it’s worth considering who you’re asking:

If you ask your parents, they’re probably really proud of you and think that everything you’ve done is great and will tell you this, regardless of formatting or presentation details. These things might be insignificant to them.

If you ask an academic, they might base their feedback on how an academic CV should look, and concentrate on what you say about your education and research.

If you ask someone from Careers and Placements, then you should find out what is important to employers (and yes, this might be at odds with what other people have told you).

What is important?

I’ve seen a lot of CVs. I mean, a huge number. Sometimes, it feels as if we’re talking about a mountain the size of Mount Everest.

I know that you’re going to be proud of what’s in your CV and that criticism can sometimes be hard to take and that natural human instinct is to become defensive – we’ve all done it. However, it’s important that you appreciate something: feedback is provided to challenge you and to help you to make what might be a good CV, amazing! We all know that there is competition for graduate roles, so an effective CV needs to be tailored to the role, it needs to demonstrate why you’re a good fit and aligned with the employer’s values. It should evidence your abilities and it should contain absolutely zero mistakes! After all, it’s your sales document (that’s what it is – it’s selling you to employers and encouraging them to interview you). Employers take the attitude, “if you aren’t committed to ensuring that your own sales document is perfect, what will you be committed to?”

So, if nothing else, aside from “zero mistakes”, take two more words from this blog: “tailored” (as in, “your CV needs to be tailored for every single opportunity for which you apply”), and “brand” (as in, “you need to ensure that your brand stand-out to the employer and distinguishes you from other applicants”).

Why now?

One word  – “lockdown”! You have time on your hands, so use it to review your CV now. Go through in detail and be self-critical. How much impact does it have? How much does it make you stand out from the crowd? Is it fantastic, or might some bits be a little mediocre and worthy of updating? This is your opportunity to perfect it. Look at the adverts employers have placed previously. What have they been seeking in ideal candidates? How well (or not) does your CV demonstrate that you meet these requirements? It’s time to begin revising it…

What resources can I use?

There are LOADS out there to look at. Here are a few I often recommend:

What do I need to do next?
  • Identify what recruiters are seeking – skills, strengths, knowledge
  • Review your current CV – how well does it meet their requirements
  • Update your CV, branding it to sell you and tailoring it to the organisation
  • Book an appointment with a member of Careers and Placements to receive feedback (you can book a Skype appointment through Aston Futures)

Thanks for your time and I look forward to receiving your CV soon for a review (I want to build my mountain even higher!)